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On April 3, 2017, amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (the “Regulation”) came into effect. Employers in British Columbia with a workplace of 10 or more workers are advised to take notice of these changes since they introduce new obligations to evaluate and train joint health and safety committees.
Under the current legislation, employers must establish a joint occupational health and safety committee (“Committee”) in each workplace with 20 or more workers. Similarly, a worker health and safety representative (“Representative”) is required in each workplace with 10-19 workers.
The amendments to the Regulation create, among others, two new obligations in respect of Committees and Representatives:
Employers, Committee co-chairs, or certain other designated individuals must conduct an annual written evaluation of a Committee’s performance during the preceding year. The evaluations must discuss, at a minimum:
- whether the Committee has met specific statutory obligations listed in section 3.26(3)(a) of the Regulation;
- the effectiveness of the Committee’s rules and procedures; and
- the overall effectiveness of the Committee as a whole.
When an individual has been selected to join a Committee, he/she must receive at least eight hours of training within six months of selection. In the case of a Representative, he/she must receive at least four hours of training. The Regulation provides for exceptions in certain limited circumstances. The scope of the training an individual must receive depends on whether he/she is a Committee member or Representative, however at a minimum the content must include instruction on the duties of a Committee or Representative, workplace safety inspection and investigation, and requirements regarding refusal of unsafe work.
While occupational health and safety is considered an obligation shared among all stakeholders, the above amendments place responsibility on the employer to ensure that the evaluation and training described above takes place. For that reason, employers would do well to familiarize themselves with these requirements if they have not already done so. For more detail, visit WorkSafeBC’s web page regarding these changes.